Go Out & Learn

Most of us have certain memories of our childhood, which remain etched in our mind. Some of those memories are very vivid, in living color. Others are not quite as lucent. For example, I can clearly remember the first time I rode a bike without training wheels. I am also fortunate enough to have watched my oldest son learn to do the same last summer.
Other vivid memories are of Passover Seders from years past. As far as the food goes, I remember mainly the salt water, horseradish root and handmade shemurah matzah.
Parts of the Haggadah also stand out in my mind. One such passage – and I never recall actually discussing it at a Seder – is the passage immediately following the well-known section, “And it is this that has stood by our fathers and us.”
I am referring to the paragraph beginning, “Go out and learn what Lavan the Aramean wanted to do to our father Jacob.” I cannot be quite sure why I remember this line of the Haggadah. There are others, of course, but since this one is currently on my mind, I will discuss it briefly, as perhaps it took all these years to appreciate the message inherent within it.
Why does the passage tell me to “go out” and learn? Can’t I stay in and learn? And where am I supposed to go to?
The deeper meaning of this passage can be understood by a teaching of Rabbi Yosef Schneersohn, the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe.
Rabbi Schneersohn explained that every Torah text is extremely precise, and chooses its words carefully. Subtle innuendo and word selection can carry within it an entire world of interpretation.
Some of us are sometimes faced with the challenge of being unable to integrate new ideas into our lives. The general rule is that the older you get, the harder it becomes to do so, for we become more firm and set in our ways. As we become more educated and more exposed to the realities around us, we make more and more assumptions about the way things should be.
Often, when encountering a foreign new idea, we immediately reject it without even giving it proper consideration. It can be extremely difficult to evaluate and assess values and ideas that don’t jive with what we are used to.
The Haggadah, as mentioned above, chose its words carefully.
Go out and learn. You want to truly learn? You must “go out” of your preconceived notions and open yourself up to an alternative point of view. You may ultimately end up rejecting it, but the first step is to exit your previous self, your prior notions; only then can one truly learn.
I think this is a fitting lesson for us this Passover holiday. Although we will not be living a physical Egypt, we too can have our own personal spiritual and intellectual exodus. Now is the time to go out of your preconceived notions about Judaism, and examine it afresh.
When we go out, we are certain to learn.
May we be blessed with a kosher and happy Passover.